Ko a star both on and off the golf course

By Dean Murphy
New Zealand Golf Chief Executive

What a wonderful time it is right now for golf in New Zealand. The extended summer of good weather is giving us all a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the fantastic courses we have all over the country and our international golfing stars have made great starts to 2016.
Where we are really lucky, however, is that we are all able to be part of the wonderful success of Lydia Ko.
I’ve written about this outstanding young women on many occasions, but for me, I just can’t say enough about how special this girl is. We are all very lucky to be around at this time to enjoy the show.
As a measure of her success, in the period of two weeks Lydia has been crowned the Young New Zealander of the Year and the Lonsdale Cup winner (awarded annually by the New Zealand Olympic committee to a player who made the most outstanding contribution to Olympic or Commonwealth sport).
While both of these awards are incredible achievements for Lydia, the Lonsdale Cup is particularly special given it is as much for performances on the sporting field as it is for the character shown off the field.
New Zealand golf fans were very fortunate recently to see Lydia play at home in the 2016 ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open in Christchurch. This was a stunning event but perhaps the only disappointing factor of the week was the spectator attendance. Even with the world No 1 in the field, the attendance numbers were slightly down on the previous year. It’s hard to understand why.
While it was a fantastic championship with a great bunch of world class players present, the real star of the week was Lydia. Not only did she win her third national open in a very competitive three round sprint, she managed to fit in a whole host of media and promotional duties, fundraising charity dinners and coaching clinics for children.
All of this activity is reasonably public and these days is expected from most leading players. But where Lydia is different is the things she does when no one is looking. The gifts she gives, the photos she poses for, the volunteer barbeques she attends, the private signing sessions and the dinners she hosts.
This is all part of her way to say thank you to those that have supported her in her remarkable development. That in itself is remarkable as I have never seen a player give so much of her time to others and show such humility while doing it.
In a measure of how close she is to her home country and New Zealand Golf, Lydia broke down in tears when giving her New Zealand Open victory speech as she passed on thanks to the many people that have backed her.
Finally, after winning the championship, Lydia donated all her winnings to New Zealand in gratitude for the support she received growing up here in God’s own. This is an overwhelmingly kind gesture and one for which I hope she receives the appropriate recognition.
Golf is a game founded on values and, for me, no one currently epitomises this more than Lydia. She may be the world’s best player and overwhelmed with requests for her time, but she takes the time to do the little things right.
At just 18, Lydia has an ability to see the bigger picture and regularly spends her time giving back and this is just as important to her as what happens on the golf course.
Lydia Ko is a true superstar and we are all so lucky to be part of it.